Prep football: Playoff picture fairly clear for Carson

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

By Bret Strelow
Carson appears to control its destiny, but there are few certainties when it comes to the NCHSAA’s expanded playoff system.
Friday marks the end of the football regular season, and the Cougars (3-7, 2-6 NPC) need to upset West Iredell (6-4, 4-4) to keep their postseason hopes alive. South Rowan (4-6, 4-4) looks like a lock as it prepares for a matchup with North Iredell (2-8, 2-6).
n Here are the important qualifying standards:
1. A team must finish first, second or third in its conference รณ in a split-classification conference, a team must finish first or second within its division.
2. A team must have at least four overall wins if it doesn’t meet the first requirement.
3. If more than 64 teams meet the first two criteria, the number of conference wins narrows down the list of qualifiers.
With a total of 17 conferences featuring 3A teams, there are 45 automatic berths because 11 3A-only leagues will get a combined 33 spots and six split-classification leagues will get 12.
Twenty-one additional teams already have at least four overall wins, and the number is guaranteed to reach 22 following a Cape Fear Valley game between Western Harnett (3-7, 3-3) and Union Pines (3-6, 1-4).
That means at least 67 teams in 3A will end the regular season with four or more victories, and Carson is one of 10 other schools with a chance to reach four.
If the Cougars are able to beat West Iredell, they can thank the size of the 10-team NPC for giving them an advantage over many four-win clubs trying to get into the playoffs.
Carson, which plays in the state’s biggest conference, can lose two-thirds of its league games and still end up with three NPC victories. Not counting the 45 automatic qualifiers, 10 of the 22 other squads with at least four overall wins will likely finish with less than three conference victories.
That separates 57 schools from the pack and gives teams such as Carson, Porter Ridge, Concord and Wilson Hunt an opportunity to slide in.
Porter Ridge (3-7, 2-5) faces Piedmont (0-10, 0-7) and Concord (3-6, 2-5) meets A.L. Brown (8-2, 6-1) in SPC action. Hunt (3-7, 2-2) is an underdog against Eastern Carolina foe Beddingfield (8-2, 3-1).
Hickory Ridge, also a member of the SPC, is in the biggest danger among area teams. The Ragin’ Bulls, who have completed the regular season, went 5-6 overall but only 2-6 in league play.
South Granville (7-3, 1-3) isn’t even safe. The Vikings opened the season 6-0 but have struggled in Mid-State play. They face Southern Alamance (5-5, 1-3) on Friday.
Conference wins are critical to earning a playoff berth, but it’s worth noting that seeding of the non-automatic qualifiers is based on overall record regardless of league finish.